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Grant Inspires Study, Renewal of Campus Worship

As part of the worship grant outcomes, students in Matt Chenoweth’s ceramics class this past semester created plates and chalices, which were used for communion in Wednesday’s opening Chapel.

Following a submission from Associate Professor of Theology Dr. Steve Guthrie, Belmont University was awarded a $14,300 “Vital Worship” grant last summer from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship with funding provided by the Lilly Endowment. Connected in part to the opening in August of Belmont’s new Chapel, the grant focuses on two broad goals for 2014-15: to inform Belmont’s worship as a campus community and to encourage the community to fully inhabit the new worship space.

The grant funded a number of new initiatives during the fall semester, including a weekday morning prayer session in the Chapel which will continue this spring. (Students, staff and faculty are invited to attend Morning Prayer in the Chapel, each weekday from 7:30 to 7:50 a.m.). The grant also has funded a series of chapel speakers, addressing worship from various perspectives. Dr. Karen Swanson from the Institute for Prison Ministry talked about worship in prison settings; art historian Dr. Daniel Siedell considered worship and modern art; and local pastors Rev. Aaron Bryant, Rev. Joshua Caler and Father Dexter Brewer talked about worship in the Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic traditions, respectively. A number of additional speakers are planned for this spring including sociologist Dr. Gerardo Marti (Worship Across the Racial Divide) and Nigerian-American author and poet Enuma Okoro.

“We want to learn from our neighbors,” Guthrie said. “We’d like to hear about the distinctive practices of the different churches worshiping around us in Nashville. We’ve also made an effort to look at worship through a number of different lenses. For instance, we’ve asked: What can we learn about worship from those who worship in prison? What can worship practices teach us about race in America? And how can modern art and its use in sacred spaces help us to think more deeply about worship?”

More exciting events funded by the grant are slated for spring 2015 as well, including a week-long Faith and Culture Symposium in late February on the topic of “Worship and the Soul of the University.” Students and faculty will present papers during the symposium, which will also feature guest lectures by Dr. Melanie Ross from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson from Wheaton College.

In addition, Professor David Ribar from Belmont’s art department was commissioned to create 14 large format paintings corresponding to the Stations of the Cross to be displayed during Lent, and students in Matt Chenoweth’s ceramics class this past semester created plates and chalices, which were used for
communion in Wednesday’s opening chapel. A number of other Belmont faculty have also contributed to the worship grant. School of Music Associate Professor Dr. Jane Warren led a choral vespers service mid-way through the fall semester and a “Compline by Candlelight” service at the start of finals week. Belmont vocal ensemble Jazzmin (led by instructor Kathryn Paradise) provided music for an October chapel service on Worship and Racial Reconciliation, and Associate Professor Debbie Belue helped choreograph pieces which Belmont’s dance students performed in a November chapel service.

A video library of many of the presentations that have resulted from the grant is being created as an additional educational tool for the College of Theology and Christian Ministry, but other disciplines across campus are contributing to–and benefiting from–the outcomes of this grant. As one example, the Curb College sponsored and led a week of Morning Prayer this past semester, and Guthrie hopes that other academic and staff units will be able to help lead Morning Prayer in the semester ahead.

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